Ramon Franco Interview

 

This is an interview I did with Ramon in early 2006.

HUM90 - How did you get into acting, you started at an early age and were on stage in NY at 14?
Where you encouraged by your family?

R.F.…My very 1st audition was for a film entitled “Boardwalk”. I asked the producers who the star of the film, was and they said Lee Strasberg. And I said “So you have no big stars in your movie” They wanted a naïve kid and they got one. The film also starred Ruth Gordon and Janet Leigh. Janet taught me how to play poker in between scenes. She was very cool. Years later I worked with her youngest daughter Kelly on the Robert Conrad Pilot “Search & Rescue”. The casting Director for Boardwalk was Barbara Claman who 8 years later would cast me in Tour of Duty.

HUM90 - I’ve read that you used to have long hair and is it true that once you cut it off you got the role of Aponte in Heartbreak Ridge, along side Clint Eastwood. Is that true?, did you go back and thank the barber after getting the role? Was that the best haircut you’ve ever had?

R.F …I cut my hair for a National Guard commercial which led to a play about Nam which led to Heartbreak which led to Tour of Duty. Yes, I thanked the Barber. Often.

HUM90 - Which role, out of all your film, TV & theatre work was the one that you enjoyed the most? Why was this?

R.F....Besides Ruiz of course. Nene Lopez on    “NYPD Blue”. We got the required shots out of the way early enough on the last day so there was no pressure.  Usually actors have to be cognizant of time. But since we weren’t, it felt more like theatre.  A rare luxury. That’s when magic happens. Especially working with 2 stars like Dennis Franz and Jimmy Smits. It was an honor for a young actor. I just held on tight and flew with them for a few hours. By the time we wrapped at 2 am I was still flying.

HUM90 - Have you ever been injured filming, which show/film was it on?

R.F…..Tony Becker saved my life one day on the set of Tour. We were using Hueys (helicopters) that day and between shots  I was joking around and moving backwards straight into the chopper blades. Tony was yelling at me to stop but there was so much noise I could not hear him. He just ran towards me and pulled me back to safety. I had broken the #1 rule that day. ”Never walk behind the helicopter”.

HUM90 - You have worked on many shows, House, Cold Case, ER, Search & Rescue, NYPD Blue, are just a few, what was it like working on these shows?

R.F...  I have had the pleasure of working with Robert Conrad and his family on a few projects. I consider them a second family. Director Michael Schultz is a maestro. He directed the COLD CASE episode in which I appeared. I came to understand why is considered a legend. He also directed Stan Foster’s film  “Woman Thou Art Loosed”.

HUM90 - You have enjoyed working with many famous names Lee Strasberg , Clint Eastwood, Lee Majors, Carl Weathers, and on many others. Did anyone give you any advice which has helped you since?

R.F....Clint Eastwood taught me to never judge a “bad guy” character. Just do it with as much dignity as possible and let someone else be the judge. Lee Majors taught me about professionalism. Robert Conrad showed me how to make work fun. And Lee Strasberg taught me the importance of dedication. A difficult concept to grasp at 14.

HUM90 - Recently you have been seen on House, Cold Case & ER what was it like on the hottest new shows, and one of the longest running hits?

R.F....ER is amazing. The crew has been there a very long time. So they knew one another’s moves.  Like choreography.  They filmed 3 scenes at once. It was like watching a Beautiful Ballet. But this one, you’re in.

HUM90 - Who have you enjoyed working with most?

R.F....Clint.

HUM90 - You did the voice of skull Def Jam Fight for NY, a computer game, are you a gamer?
Have you done any other voice work?

 

R.F....I’m not a gamer. I did the gig as a favor for someone I admire very much.

HUM90 -When was the last time you were recognized by a fan?
Which role are you most recognized for?

R.F...Most recently for COLD CASE but Ruiz is still well remembered.

HUM90 - Are you married yet or still single?

R.F....Single

HUM90 -Do you still do theatre work?
Do you enjoy the instant reaction you get from a live audience?

R.F....Not as much.

HUM90 - Both Stephen Caffrey & Miguel Nunez starred in plays on last year did you catch either of them treading the boards?

R.F.....No. 

HUM90 -What have you been doing recently? , Since your appearances on Cold Case, House.

R.F.....I just worked on a show called “IN JUSTICE”.

TOUR OF DUTY QUESTIONS

HUM90 - How did you get the role of Ruiz? 

R.F....I auditioned along with every other actor in town that summer. It was the hot pilot to get for the season.

HUM90 - Did you get the role from the first audition? 

R.F......It took 5-6 auditions I believe.

HUM90 - How did you prepare for the role of Ruiz? 
Did your experience on Heartbreak Ridge help you at all?

R.F.....Although I did not know it I had been preparing for Ruiz my entire life.

HUM90 - Did you have to do much physical training for the role in Tour?
Did you have any special/extra training because of you carrying the M60 machine gun?

R.F....I miss the pig {m60 machine gun}. We were all young and in shape. It was fun.

HUM90 - When you were making the pilot episode of TOD how did you feel about the show?
Did you think it was something special, & did you ever think that in years to come you would still be answering questions about it?

R.F......No I did not know it would change my life forever. I remember standing on a Bluff overlooking the ocean in Hawaii with Miguel and Tony and feeling like all the hard work had paid off. A lead role in the seasons most important new TV show being filmed in paradise. Not bad for a kid from the South Bronx

HUM90 -What was it like working on TOD?
What were the daily conditions like? What was a typical days shoot? Up at 6am?

R.F...Up before the sun rose, an hour’s drive in the van to remote locations. Rain, bugs, uncomfortable conditions. But it was necessary for the sake of authenticity. We’d arrive back at our rooms after a long day (12-13 hours) covered in red mud.  Usually there was just enough time to shower, eat, and go over our scenes for the next day.

HUM90 -What’s your favourite episode or scene in TOD?

R.F....I like Kyle Chandlers work in season 3.

HUM90 - Stan & Terry both mentioned playing pranks on set, Do you remember anything in particular that you did or were on the receiving end of.

R.F.....I miss Miguel making me laugh. He is the funniest man in the world .And a great Actor.

HUM90 - You said in an interview, many years ago, that if a veteran wants to talk for 2 hours, you listen for two hours. Do you still get stopped by Vets wanting to talk about the show?
Do you think that TOD helped the American public come to understand better the war in Vietnam and the Veterans?

R.F....I now get stopped by the children of Vets who mention how much the show meant to their dads and their families. To know that it helped a family to better understand one another is the biggest reward for an actor involved with such a sensitive subject.

HUM90 - Apart from memories what if anything did you keep from the show?

R.F.....I have everything. Scripts, t- shirts, uniforms, photos , even my original contracts.

HUM90 - Which members of the cast and crew do you remain friends with? 

R.F -  I’m great friends with Stan. I talk to him and Miguel more often than the other guys.

HUM90 - Who did you enjoy working with the most on TOD?
Who was then easiest?
Who wouldn’t, couldn’t remember their lines or kept laughing during takes?

R.F....There was no room for error on Tour. It was an important subject matter and a very difficult show to do because of the weapons and explosions and Helicopters. We were lucky to have an amazing crew and A D’s that were great at keeping us in check. We also had the privilege of working with wonderful technical advisers.

HUM90 - The character of Ruiz went through many different experiences during TOD, the hard street kid, then we see a softer, emotional side though his helping the old lady in the early episode, and later of his emotional breakdown, finding love & returning back to the USA, this must have been very fulfilling to be able to play such different sides of Ruiz’s character?

R.F....The credit for Ruiz belongs to Steven Phillip Smith. One of our wonderful writers and producers.

HUM90 - Do you have a favourite season?
How did you feel about the introduction of the women in season two?

R.F.... Our time in Kaneohe Bay.1st season. 
I still have a crush on Kim Delany. I also worked with her on “Philly”.

HUM90 - Ruiz had a romance; did you feel this was right for Ruiz’s character?
What was it like to work with Kamala Lopez-Dawson who played Ruiz’s love interest Susanna Lozada?

R.F.....Kamala is a Yale Drama School graduate. A beautiful and sensitive actress.

HUM90 - Since Tour first aired it has been rerun in countries all over the world, delighting old fans & gaining new fans.
How does that feel to have been part of something that has endured so long and over the years found a new generation of fans?

R.F.....It’s hard to believe. I have a brother in Africa .He told me so in a fan letter recently. lol.

HUM90 - Out of all the characters that came and went, were there any you would have liked to stay on, such as Eric (Scott Baker), Joshua (Horn)?

R.F.....Baker was my m60 partner so of course I miss him the most. We had a great chemistry.

HUM90 - Throughout the three seasons, you got fan mail, did it at all change with the developments in Ruiz character?

R.F.......Yes. The mail became more encouraging as he suffered through his breakdown.

HUM90 - Tour is the only TV show to have recognized Hispanic American involvement in Americas Armed conflicts through the character of Ruiz. At the time did you feel this put you under any pressure?
Do you feel that TV has moved forward in a positive way for Hispanics and others since TOD?

R.F......I did not know at the time that he was the first in the history of Television. It’s a great honor.

HUM90 - In 1990 you were the recipient of the Desi Arnaz Vanguard Award, given for being a strong role model and improving the image of Hispanics in the media arts.
I'm sure you were very proud to receive this award,
Are you involved in any projects/charities to help young people trying to come through in the media arts?

R.F....Yes. I lend my time to various different charities throughout the year. Mainly kids hospitals, women’s shelters, as well as different research foundations.

HUM90 - Ruiz returned home at the end of season three,
Do you know what was planned for Ruiz in the 4th season?

R.F.....No.

HUM90 - Do you think that if Tour were made now it would fair better in the ratings, now that more time has passed since the end of the war?

R.F.......I think considering the subject matter it did very well in the ratings. It was a tough show to watch. It was heartbreaking to watch what those boys had to endure. It’s very hard to make war palatable every week.

HUM90 - The reunion question --what's your view on it?, Do you think there should be one?, 
R.F........I had not really thought about it. Maybe.

HUM90 - Would Ruiz be in it?
R.F....
Yes

HUM90 - What’s next for Ramon Franco?
R.F.......Shooting “Resident Evil” 3 Extinction in Mexico City this summer.

HUM90 - Thank you very much for talking to HUM90, any messages for your fans

R.F.......I would very much like to say a big Thank you to all the fans for their continued support of Tour Of Duty.

Much Love Always,

Ramon Franco

PFC Alberto Ruiz

 

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Copyright 2006 Ramon Franco/Craig Blackmore . All rights Reserved.